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More to taste

We all love an optimist and hey, let's just say it, the following folks who have been brave enough to open tasting rooms over the last year should be celebrated and honored with many visitors. Not to mention, with this great weather starting to stick around, it's time to get outside and explore these fun new spots.

B Cellars: A producer that's been around the Napa Valley for a few years, B Cellars has only recently opened this tasting room, a place to try winemaker Kirk Venge's three proprietary Rhone and Italian-influenced blends. The tasting room is surrounded by vineyards, its outdoor patio overlooking a pond, where with 24-hours notice, a picnic lunch will be available for $35 per person from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 400 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, 709-8787, bcellars.com.

Cesar Toxqui Cellars: Named for winemaker Cesar Toxqui who farms in the coastal foothills of Mendocino County and who first learned about making wine from his jobs at Fetzer Vineyards and Brutocao Cellars. Tastings of his small-production cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, zinfandel and red blends are available at his downtown Hopland tasting room.

Open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 13440 S. Highway 101, Hopland, 744-1071, www.toxqui.com.

Lula Cellars: Named for winemaker Jeff Hansen's maternal grandmother, Lula is all about smooth and silky pinot noir from the Mendocino Coast, in addition to a Mendocino gew?rztraminer and Napa zinfandel. This small tasting spot is in the heart of Anderson Valley.

Open Friday through Monday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 9000 Highway 128, Philo, 895-3737, lulacellars.com.

Red Car: The West County winery, part of the newly developed West Sonoma Coast Vintners Association, offers three tiers of its wines, Boxcar (chardonnay, pinot noir, rose and syrah), Trolley (pinot noir and syrah) and Reserve (cleverly named pinot noir, roussanne and syrah), all available to try and buy at this newly opened tasting room.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 8400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, 829-8500, redcarwine.com.

Rivino Winery: Husband and wife team Jason McConnell and Suzanne Jahnke McConnell recently opened the doors for guests to come take a gander at their tiny artisan winery with sweeping views of the Ukiah Valley below, a stone's throw from their estate vineyard, Schrader Ranch. All micro-production and deftly made, the wines range from Chianti-inspired sangiovese and herbalicious cabernet franc to a viognier with pleasing honeysuckle and tropical minerality, and a chardonnay is completely unoaked, nice, bright and crisp like an autumn apple. They also make Sedulous, a blend of merlot, cab franc and viognier that's distinctly different.


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